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Book TV

Michael Aaron Rockland Education. (2012) 'An American Diplomat in Franco Spain.'

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TOPIC FREQUENCY

Madrid 19, Spain 18, United States 12, Martin Luther King 7, Dr. King 5, Argentina 3, Nap 2, U.s. Navy 2, Spaniard 2, Moscow 2, Soviet Union 2, Franco 2, Washington 2, Dr. Strangelove 2, New Mexico 2, Baa 1, Hemmingway 1, Populos 1, Jackie 1, Jodi 1,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Michael Aaron Rockland  Education.   
   (2012) 'An American Diplomat in Franco Spain.'  

    January 6, 2013
    1:00 - 2:30am EST  

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usually someone that is intellectually curious, is enthralled with history, is probably a good leo file and loves books, the smell of books, the feel of books, someone that is culturally invested in the community and wants to be civically engaged, someone that is looking for new experiences throughout programming. ..
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>> it was published anonymously, and the story is they were meeting, and sarah hellen pointed it out, and said, have you seen the poem? he said, why, sarah, i wrote that for you. the signature is in pencil-under-par the poem. our collections really represent the reading interests of populos at the time. the combination of reluctance of the founding fathers and librarians that continued to work here and didn't want to discard anything, we retained many of the collection, and so now those collections really represent insights into o group of people that were trying to
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form a library at that time where their own civilization was really taking form. this place has witness the civil unrest, economic unrest, american revolution, weather, travesties, and then still somehow continued to keep its foothold, and, today, we continue to be circulating library true to our mission, but also a very vibrant, active cultural center where we're an amp fier, if you will, of local arts and culture. we've really tried to embrace that part of our mission by working with the city, members of my staff, along with me, participatedded in the creative -- participated in the creative providence plan. we collaborate with other
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organizations in the city, and we built those collaborations over the last six or seven years in such a way that put us at the forefront of the participation of the community really at the perception of an old historic library that's a depository and more of an institution that is letting the past teach it to be relevant in the future. >> for more information on booktv's visit to rhode island and others visited by the local content vehicle, go to c-span.org/low --
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c-span.org/localcontent. >> this is about an hour and a half. >> muchos graciuos. i'm on a train to barcelona a few years ago, and the woman next to me is not just a professor, but the head of their press, and i understand you were with the embassy? i thought to tell some stories, and she said would you write that book for us? i said, sure. it was the fastest contract i ever got in my life. that is, and i'll pass it around, that this copy of the book, the spanish version, and
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i'll pass around the american version, they are somewhat different. by the way, the publisher, john hanson who is right here, and his wife, jodi, who is somewhere out there, here in the united states, they do wonderful things. wonderful, creative publishing, especially in a world where nobody reads anymore or few do, but you do. glad you're here tonight. after it came out in spain, now it's just come out october 1st here in the states, and i changed a bunch of stuff, a lot of the stuff changed was john's idea. he said, and he was absolutely right saying this chapter here, i don't think anyone's going to
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understand it, and he also made wonderful suggestions, and so we took a chapter out and put it in after wards, what it was like to get out of diplomatic service and go to rutgers university where i've been ever since as a professor, and in the very late 60s, early 70s, i went there in 69, and i'm still there, and i was supposed to go to vietnam as a culture, and i thought it was a stupid idea, and i had three little children i was not going to abandon that i i thought was
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not a good war. there's two stories i want to focus on this evening. one is about the day i spent alone with martin luther king in madrid of all places, and the other one is about one of the really terrible events of the cold war which is when the united states ended up dropping four hydrogen bombs on spain. luckily, unarmed, and not on purpose, and i'll tell you that story later. two very different stories. the king's story is a soft story, and the bomb story is a hard story. before i do that, i thought i'd tell you about a few of the other chapters in the book, and, by the way, i brought along a bunch of copies, and if any of you want one, i'll write anything you'd like in there
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because i'm always looking for readers. that's why you write books. this is my 13th book. i write fiction, nonfiction, journalism, i go back and forth. i never wanted to make up my mind who i wanted to be when i grew up, and i never have so i go back and forth between this and literary forms. one of the chapters -- a couple chapters in the book i thought i might mention, and then i will get on to the king story. one of the chapters is about the making of a movie. my son, who was then four and a half is the little boy in the movie, sasha, if you have seen it. there's a picture in the book, and that chapter as it's coming around, the spanish and the american edition, about how that came about. it was very strange and wonderful experience. there's another chapter in there
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on what it was like to be a jew in spain, in those days when given the issue between franco and the vatican which made every other religion illegal -- i begin that chapter with a funny story, really. it was funny -- it's not funny. i'm in a bar up in northern spain, and the guy's in the bar are -- the guys in the bar are trying to teach me how to pour the wonderful hard cider, which perhaps you know it, you know, and you hold -- yeah, right, now hold the bottle this way over your head, and you have a glass with a very big open glass pointing out this way, and the cider's supposed to come down, hit the outside of the glass and
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bounce in. i'm trying to do that, but most is running all over my pants and the floor. a little bit is going into the glass, and one of the guys says to me, and we're all pretty well drunk by this time, and the guy says to me, "are you catholic or atheist?" those were the -- those seemed to be the only possibilities. i said, no, no, i'm neither a catholic nor an atheist. no kidding. you must be protestant. why do you think that? everybody in the american government is protestant. well, no, that's not true either. john kennedy was not protestant. i said -- he said, what are you? i said, well, i'm jewish. he said, no, no, you couldn't be jewish. why not? he said, baa --
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because you don't have any horns. i joked, i said, well, i had them cut off as i came into the foreign service. he took it seriously. there was a picture in the book, which, again, in the book thanks to john, of moses where he shows moses with horns, and it's a mistranslation of the bible where it says horns of light came down on moses from heaven, but this translation made it horns, and so there's moses with horns, and so that's where the story apparently came from. i had horns, couldn't possibly be jewish. there's a chapter in there called "lost in translation,"
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which i like a lot, because i look at what's obscene in the united states' language, and what's obscene in spanish. very different things. there's things said in spain every day which if i would say them in the united states, i would be beaten to death by all the women from 50 miles around. spaniards say every other word. there were things just the other way around that we say that spaniards would never say, and then you get a realceps and feel -- real sense and feeling for how the language is an indexed to culture. and also, i think what it should teach owl of -- all of us is that when you translate, you have to know, not just both languages, but both cultures. you really do. i had to know argentina for the
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book and i had to know -- with the agency in arian argentina be spain. i didn't have a sense for 19th century argentina no less to do that. there's an expression in spanish that means literal translation, so there's a perfect example. if you said cow's translation in english, that means nothing. you say literal translation. that's how you have to know the cultures in order to do that kind of thing.
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in those days, spain had a lot of fascists around, not just the government, but this was a fascist and even nazis in exile living in madrid. my next door neighbor was a romanian nazi. we didn't speak for four years. he didn't say one word in four years. also, there were lots of people living in madrid then who loved spanish culture as i do, and at one point in the book, i call this book "a love letter to spain," and it is, but in addition to the -- i would see one parone walking around in the neighborhood all the time and a
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batista walking around, but when i saw real nazis, that was really something else. i was invited to a party at his place, a big apartment, and since he was a guy i worked with in cultural affairs, i went to the party, and there was ava gardener, and at the other end of the room was a guy hitler called his favorite soldier. he was the leader of the attacks on this mountain top where the partisans in italy had captured
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mouslini and didn't know what to do with him, and they led in the middle of the night, to a flat place on the top of the mountain to come in silently with the glider, and they killed all the partisans who got mouslini and put him back in power. he's on the other end of the room. somehow the contrast, straight out of freud. she was heros. he was soninos. i was not going to go with he was. i would have punched him. i thought, especially because i was a guest, i would wednesday to ava who was standing there drinking and just barely standing up. i mean, she was an alcoholic, you know, basically drank herself to deft, and she was standing there, and, and i just
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wanted to say how much i enjoyed your movies over the years. she said, young man, you speak english beautifully for a spaniard. i said because i'm not a spaniard. by that time, she drifted away. i don't think she heard my answer. she was really gone. that's how that -- that's typical, that chapter, just another vignette in the chapter, and then i want to tell the king story and the bombs story. the ambassador who is your bass when you're in the service, received an invitation to the international arts show, which then took place in the central park of madrid.
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basically behind the museum, a very big park, and -- a crystal palace there. they this art show. the ambassador didn't want to go to who gave to to the minister who gave it to the next and all the way, and they said -- nobody i could give it to. i was the end of the line. i went. although, i was very much looking forward to going because as a culturist, the people you want to appreciate american culture, which is as you do, is the artists, the writers, the musicians, the most cultured spaniards, professors, and those are the people you really are trying to convince that the united states is not a totally barbaric country, and so i went. everybody that was there, as far
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as i could see, they were all ambassadors. i was feeling good about myself. here i was in my 20s, and everybody else is an ambassador, and i'm a make believe ambassador here remitting -- representing the united states officially at this event, and there's waiters coming around with appetizers and wine and pretending to look at the pictures. first thing i notice is known of the artist friends were there. their pictures all over the wall, but none of them were there. that was funny. i was looking forward to seeing them, and they were not there. they had to know something i didn't know. standing around, looking, and suddenly a chief of protocol asked everybody, all the diplomats to line up in a line. i lined up, and right here was the ambassador from guatemala. right here was the ambassador from an african country which i
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never heard of until that appointment. we're standing there and everything, and i look there, and, oh, man, here comes franoc. i had no idea, surrounded by generals and whatnot, and there's franco coming along, and, i mean, given that i was the most junior guy in the whole embassy, i, you know, i would never be in this position, and he's coming along, and he's greeting each diplomat there from their country and having a two minute conversation with them, and then moving on. i'm thinking i just can't do this. i'm just not going to shake hands with him. i'm just not going to do it even though it was my duty to do it. talk about damned if you do, damned if you don't. i really didn't know what to do. i'm in the line. i'm not going to -- if he gets here, then i have to shake it,
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but it would be something that i would be ashamed of the rest of my life, so then i realized right behind me was a portable wall, a screen, a big wall, you know, a stand, panels, i don't know how to describe it in english or spanish, with pictures on it. in other words, an addition to the pictures on the walls, there were pictures on the panels. i thought, wow, can i really do this? what i did was look at the african guy, and then just went behind the panel. i was afraid somebody would see me and be on the next plane by morning, if not earlier.
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i was very afraid. these are the spanish government, and nobody from the spanish government notices, and nobody reported it to the embassy so the next day, i watched, until fraco went by, and then i ooze back in. it was a great moment. i will take any questions if you prefer. okay. the martin luther king story. i had mentioned to the
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ambassador that i had written a thesis on the montgomery busboy cot of 56 which brought martin to world attention. we all remember that event. i forget the context, but i mentioned this to him. i'm reading this book, and there's a picture of martin luther king, and the pope paul vi, and i'm reading, and it says that and it says that king is
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coming to to madrid today, and that picture was taken the day beforement i thought, wow. then the phone rang. this is ambassador woodward. i'm thinking what did i do? the ambassador doesn't call you. he tells somebody else to call you on the phone. it's like getting a call from the president of the united states, in that context. he tells me that martin luther king is coming to madrid? i said i would give my left arm to be with him. he said, you look after him, and anything else, i have to be in an all day morning with the foreign ministry. i want to see you myself, but i can't, so you look after him.
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you need anything, call the secretary, and you can have the limo, the chauffeur, whatever you want, but he's basically coming here for a day of rest. never been in spain. he's coming here to be a tourist for a day. tomorrow, going to amsterdam to keynote a convention for congress or whatever of some sort. i get the flight number, call the airport, and the flight had already landed. i have not the foggiest notion where he would be. there's 500 he toles in madrid. i don't know if he's sitting in
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a hotel. you can't call all 500 or whatever. i don't know if -- he might be staying with friends or something. i have no idea. i'm staired. i think i screwed this up already. it was not my fault. i told the ambassador that the plane had landed. i started to call hotels. and i don't know why i didn't call this particular hotel first. it was the hotel closest to the embassy. the embassy entrance, and on sorano street, and behind it is the main drag in madrid, of course, and on the other side of that is the hilton. now it's called the intercontinue neapal, but it's the same -- intercontinental, but it's the same building. i call them 20th, but i should
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have called them first. i had a ridiculous conversation with the desk clerk. i mean, it was really funny. i said is there a dr. king staying at the hotel? in spanish i say it. the guyments -- the guy wants to try english on me. king, how do you say that in english? ray. [speaking spanish] one time we had -- one time we had -- we've never had a king. i said, no, no, his name is king. the name is king. you said dr. king. i said forget the doctor thing and king. just look at the register. i mean i have 480 more hotels to call, maybe. and he looks at the register and
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says, hey, it says "king" here,. he had to put an "o" there somehow. i said, really? he said, yeah. it's better in spanish. i'll do it in spanish. [speaking spanish] it's so funny that he said a black uncle. we say a black guy maybe. it was so funny using the word in that context. the last words, i was out the door, out the embassy, around the corner, past sorano, and i'm crossing the street which, as you know, is like crossing the new jersey turnpike which is another book on the new jersey turnpike, and i'm a native new
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yorker, dodging traffic, and get to the hotel and asked to be connected with the room, and he says, hello? i woke him up. he was exhausted. he got there and had gone to take a nap. he went to sleep. he had not been sleeping more than 15 minutes, and the phone rings, and it's me. i said, dr. king? he says, yeah? i go, this is michael with the american embassy. i'm the assistant culture, and the ambassador asked me knowing that you were coming here and wanted to have a free day, and, perhaps i can help you, and, besides, all the media of spain is looking for you, and i'm glad i found you first. i got to make decisions about whatted -- what to do with the media and
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stuff, whereupon he says, i'm sorry, i don't speak spanish. i said this is not spanish. this is english. yeah, i mean, it was, i mean, he gets off the plane, can't speak spanish, and there's a new yorker with my accent talking a mile a minute, woke him up, you know, and he is not understanding what i'm saying. he thought i was speaking spanish so i repeated it slowly, and he said, sure, come on up. i went up to the room, and i knocked on the door, and he opened the door in his underpants. that's like meeting george washington in his underpants, you know? abraham lincoln, at least for my
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students at rutgers university where, to them, you know, king, that's really in the past. back then was washington and lincoln or something, you know? all of american history before they were born is ancient history to them, but in any case, this he is in the white boxer shorts so i go in, and, you know, we americans are informal. he was taking a nap. i understood this perfectly, and i began to talk to him about, look, we have to do something about the media because they are going to find you. i found you. they are # going to find you and drive you crazy, and if you what wanted to do was take it easy, i want to help you take it easy today, and here's what i recommend. e -- i recommend that i have the press across the street at the embassy set up a press conference of only a half hour down in the ballroom of the hotel, limited to a half hour,
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i'll do the interpreting, and he'll set it up for an hour from now. he said, well -- i said, look, i understand, you're tired, and you're just here to just see the town really. if we don't do that, they will be following us all over the town. it will drive us crazy. if we don't do this and say it's limited to that. he said, okay. i called over to the embassy. they set it up. it was funny to be in the room, turn op the television set when he was in the shower, and it was funny, watching the preparations of the press conference downstairs in the same hotel which was on the television set. kind of cool. i asked him, do you have any immediate problems?
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yeah, well i have one, but i am embarrassed to talk about it. i said, well, look, you know, we're all just people. just something i could do to help you, so he said, you know, i got a terrible case of diarrhea. now, here's martin luther king, the closest thing we have in america to app american -- an american saint and a very, very great man, and he gets diarrhea like the rest of us sometimes do. i mean, it was just, you know, he was a human being. in fact, it was typical of the day to be with king, and he's just a guy. invited me to call him martin and mike out in madrid, and i was then 29, and he was 35. he was not that much older than me. you know, when he was murdered, he was just 39.
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four years later. so i said, i'll take care of it. i'll be back in five minutes. in those days, and probably, still, you can get things over the counter in spain. you need eight doctors to prescribe something here in the state, and i went and got him the medicine. you're looking at the man who cured martin luther's diarrhea in madrid. that's a distinction if there ever was one. later on in the day, he was thanking me for this. then the phone rang. he picks it up and says i'm sure this person is speaking spanish. i picked it up, and it was a spanish protestant minister. now, a spanish protestant minister was basically a persecuted person. if you are not catholic, maybe
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atheists were okay, but anything, and, in fact, he was going to the conference the next day, and in am amsterdam, and i think maybe he called there, and they seemed to know where king was. i don't know how he knew where king was, but he said i would like to come upstairs to greet dr. king. i said to martin, i said, look, i know that you don't want to do this, but it would really be a lovely thing to do because he's a protestant minister, wondering when he's going to be arrested. if you would just greet him, you would be doing a very kind act, and i won't let him stay more than a minute.
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he said, okay. i told the minister to come upstairs. i opened the door, and the minister sees king standing in his underparticipants as i had. he's still in the underpants. the minister, of course, being spanish, hesitates for a moment because king's in the underpants, and then he rushes across the room to give martin a giant abrasso, and which martin had never experienced before. i'll never forget the look -- looking at me over the minister's shoulder, the look of, hey, man, what have you gotten me into now? what's this? what is it with this minister guy? this sinister minister? then he went and took a shower,
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and then got dressed, did a press conference, and now a press conference has silly questions like, dr. king, how do you like spain? in spanish, i said, martin, how do you like spain? i don't know anything about it. i just got off the plane, and i came to the hotel. all i've seen is the saxty -- taxi and the hotel room so far. i said, don't worry, i'll take care of it. drft king says he -- dr. king really enjoys spain and admires the spanish people. we got a series of questions like that for which he couldn't possibly have an answer. each time i asked, he said, i don't know what to say. i said, don't worry, i'll take care of it. i just made stuff up, you know? i guess that's called diplomacy,
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i don't know. we went upstairs, and i said, look, why don't you take a nap now, take a good nap. i'll pick you up, and then we'll go to lunch. that's what we did. meanwhile, i got the embassy chauffeur and the limo. those of you who know madrid know boteen's restaurant off the plaza down the steps, and it is the same restaurant where hemmingway's "the sun also rises" ends, the last scene of "the sun also rises" is in that restaurant, and that's where we had lunch, down in the bodega, just way down below the street, and if you know it, it's cave-like down there. there was an american couple sitting there, and she said, she says, i think that's martin
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luther king! he looks over. no, no, looks like him, but it's not him. i was not going to disabuse them of this. we went shopping. he wanted to buy stuff for gifts for his -- for his wife and children. i took him to the place that i knew, and i kept trying to steer him to the good stuff. of course, he, like any other tourist, wanted the flamingos and the bullfighters, and worst of all, he wanted the bullfight posters with his son's name on it. each son would get a poster with their name in there rather than the great bullfighter of that time. i was -- you know, i understand it perfectly. you know, madrid for the first time, that's what you get, but i was trying to steer him, like,
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come here, good stuff here. he had no interest in that at all. we put all of the gifts into the car, and i told the embassy chauffeur he should go back to the hotel, and asked him to bring all the gifts up to the room, and then he and i went walking in the park, and we spent most of the afternoon just hanging out in the park. we stopped for a couple times to have coffees, and it was really wonderful because we talked about everything except the nobel prize which he was awarded two weeks later. we talked about our families. we talked about our lives. it was a very beautiful and wonderful experience for me. you can imagine this.
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we talked about black history which was a foreign concept to me at that time; just like women's history or gay history or anything else like that, you know, where we realized that the history that many of us study was white anglo protestant history, which is what we got, the puritans and all of those guys. it was just -- it was just a very warm, lovely, lovely time. there was one thing about him that i wanted to report which i think is kind of -- you wouldn't expect this, and but just as einstein, they say was lousy in math in elementary school, martin luther king, who i think was a genius at what he did, yet
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very human in the sense that with the possible exception of my wife, i never met anybody who is geographically so out to lunch. we had a crazy conversation. i thought he was putting me on. he said, michael, we're in madrid now; right? yeah. well, the peninsula here, portugal here, madrid in the middle here. okay, so from here, where's rome? i thought, well, i do a little france, the boot, and rome there, due east of here. is he putting me on or what? he said, and tomorrow i'm going to amsterdam, so where's that from here? so i sketch in op this napkin. i wish i saved the napkin. i sketch in on a napkin northern
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europe more or less saying here's amsterdam. it's basically northeast of here. then he asked me -- i just couldn't believe it -- the last question was, and, okay, so from madrid, where's the united states? i was looking at him, and i said, he's got to be putting me on, pulling me leg. this is not real. he meant it. i drew sort of like maine and florida, and, you know, a little bit to the west there, and then i put some waves in between spain and the united states, and it was just -- it was so strange. here's a man who was unbelievably intelligent and fun -- as i say, in what he did,
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not only a very great man, but a man of genius really. i don't know if we've ever had a greater speech than the "i have a dream speech" in our entire history for one thing, but a man who made it possible for us to be proud of ourselves as americans today than we would have had he never lived. in all kinds of ways. then we went and had supper. we had supper in one of the -- if you know of them in madrid, one of the -- the ham museums. they -- the restaurants for those of you who don't know them. they are all over madrid, and there was one right there down towards -- not too far from the park and so we sat at the
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counter, and we had a ham and cheese sandwich, and then we walked back to the hotel which was two or three miles. we did. we walked back there, and by this time it was nine or ten o'clock at night. i said i would pick him up in the morning and take him to the airport, which i did. this time i knew the flight. had the limo, the chauffeur, the whole bit. we got out at the airport, and then he did something that was very curious, you know, and i'll always remember this. it's what the minister had done with him, and that is just before he went to the plane, he turned around, put his suitcase down, and threw his arms around me. gave me an abrasso, and i can
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still it feel to this day, a wonderful, wonderful moment. well, the other story i want to tell you is -- is a very grim story in many ways. what's i think the most difficult part of the story is that we in the embassy knew nothing about it. didn't matter that i didn't know anything about it, but the ambassador didn't know anything about it, and if we believe in civilian control of the military, this is a heavy thing. here's what happened. it was january 17th, 1966, and i had just supervised the new creation of an american cultural center on the other side, just a block down from the hilton hotel
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we created -- we had this big palace that an aristocratic spanish family had owned, and we were turning that into a culture center, and i hoped to be the director of it, but i was the most junior guy, and then a new guy came, and he was above me. we had three assistant culturists r and i was the most junior of them, but this guy came, and because he was more high ranking, he was not given the title, but deputy culture. we had deputy and two assistants. i was an aassistant. he announced he was going to be the directer of the americana in madrid. i was really sad. i'm sitting at the desk, january
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17, 1966, and the following happened. united states, we were to learn later, nothing top secret about this. it was top secret, but it isn't, and it's in the book, and in the american version of the book i didn't have it, but for the spanish version of the book. we used to send squadrons of three b-52's every six hours towards the borders of the soviet union. every six hours, a new squadron took off and would fly in circles around by the soviet border. there was a movie called "fail safe" which was based on a novel called "fail safe," and there's also dr. strangelove. stapply's -- stanley's brilliant and funny
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movie, peter played two different roles, and i read "fail safe," and i saw the movie "fail safe," and i saw "dr. strangelove," and i didn't know i was about to be in it. these three planes in a squadron, each carried four hydrogen bombs. each hydrogen bomb was 75 times more powerful than what was dropped on hiroshima. you add four together, it's 300 times more powerful on each of the planes. each of the plane has four hydrogen bombs, and on the way to the soviet union, though they didn't really need gas that much, the tankers from the american bases that we had, and we still have, i believe, the nuclear submarine base near kadi, but the air bases have
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long since been turned back to the spanish government. this is, by the way, one of the reasons why most of the people in the embassy, their job was to be cozy with the spanish government. that was one of the few people who, especially when you see where i go to in the story, where i was outside the embassy, but before that, i was -- one of the jobs was the liaison with the spanish university. i travel around, give talks on mark twain and jazz and stuff like that, various spanish universities, but the embassy was cozy with the franco government because they wanted to these bases there. i mean, this was the cold war. it was very cold at that time, and the cuban missile crisis in 62, not only 66, so -- and these
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bases were extremely important to the united states government, and when i first got to spain, as a matter of fact, we had b-49's on the bases outside of madrid, right next to the airport, and it was there, and another one near civil, and there was another one as well, and we had the b-49s there, but in the middle of the time that i was in spain, we brought in the b-52s that came online, and the b-49s basically retired, and the b-52s had a much longer range so we didn't have to keep them on spanish soil. these are the planes nor the bombs, and the squadrons would
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take off from bases in the eastern united states. when it got to the coast of spain, a kc135 tanker, three tankers would meet the planes, and each one would top off the tank, the fuel tank of the b-52, and the b-5 #2 -- didn't need the gas then, but wanted them full as possible because they were going to go to the soviet border and fly around for hours, just never crossing the border, but as you remember in the story "fail -- by the way, what they were doing was called "fail safe" so when the novel, which i think was 62, talked about fail safe, whoever wrote it knew he was talking about. i thought it was made up, but that's what the air force called it. you were in the fail safe
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position. the planes would fly around in circles, and when the next squadron, which had taken off six hours later, was approaching after topping off their tanks on the coast of spain, the next squadron was approaching, then the first squadron broke off contact, turn around, head back home. now the refills was much more important because they really didn't have much fuel at all, and now the tankers would meet them and top off their tanks so they could get back into the united states. this was going on 24/7/365 this is going op all the time. on january 17th, 1966, about ten in the morning, a squadron is on its way back, and one of the b-5
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#s came up -- b-52s came up too close and crashed into the kc-135. they made contact. the kc-135, which is a flying gas tank, blew up. everybody on kc-135 was incinerated, and of the eight guys on the b-52, four were killed, four ejected, and came down. three of them in the mediterranean. one of them on the town. the key thing was the four hydrogen bombs. they were also ejected, and he came down by parachute, okay? in the case of two of the bombs, parachutes were badly burned, and they came down too fast. these billions, i should merely tell you were unarmed meaning
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that, the pictures in the book of one of the bombs, in fact, there's a museum in new mexico, i'm told, i think i mentioned it in the book -- i forget, where they have one of these bombs. something about the museum of the nuclear age or something like that in new mexico where they have one of these. obviously, all the stuff is out of it. it's just the outside. the four bombs came down with their parachutes. one of them we couldn't find for several months. there was a spannish fish -- spanish fisherman, francisco, probably from, i think he came from the next town down, a fishermen's town. this town, they grew tomatoes.
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that's basically what they did, and so the -- this guy, paco or sisco. they also called him "paco the bomb guy," he kept saying i know exactly where the fourth bomb is. the u.s. navy was listening to him. the u.s. navy had 20 ships there. they were checking the bottom of 120 square miles of the mediterranean. ten by 12 miles, and they could not locate the bomb. i know exactly where it is. what does he know? of course, a guy who goes out fishing every day knows exactly where he is like you're sitting in your seat, and i know i'm standing up here. he knew exactly where that bomb came down, and nobody listenedded to him until later.
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meanwhile, we got a much bigger problem as it turned out. two of the bombs, as i said, their parachutes were badly singed or burned. they came down too fast. one of them came down just fine, but all three came down op a -- on a little town of 250 families, agricultural in the province of el maria, and they grow tomatoes. by the way, if it sounds familiar is because this town is back in the news lately. i'll get to that in ainute. one bomb came down just fine. came down slowly, settled down, but two of the bombs that the parachutes so badly burned, came down fast, and apparently, the nuclear devices carried also
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conventional explosives where if the bomb was armed, a conventional explosive would set off the nuclear fusion or fissions, whatever it is. by saying the bombs were not armed, it means this, that the bombs would always be in an unarmed stature, meaning that you would have to -- two airmen together would have to do about seven or eight thing to the bomb. push this in, pull that out, push that, i don't know, do a bunch of stuff to it. that could only be done under the direct orders of the president of the united states, which, of course, in the movie "fail safe" if you saw it, you may recall that. the wrong signal is a plane to go bomb moscow, and the president's wife, who is clearly
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kennedy's jackie, is shopping in,no, and the president has -- in new york, and the president has to agree with the russians that he'll sends up a bomber which will bomb new york city if the american plane reaches moscow, which is does, and he will drop a hydrogen bomb on new york city. that's what happens in the novel. anyway, and, by the way, we're all familiar with the president walking around. i don't know if it's still the case in the missile age, walking around with always with an airman with him carrying a black bag that looks like a doctor's bag, and there's the codes that change every day to how to arm the bombs on a particular day. these two bombs came down, and their conventional explosives went off. poof, just went off.
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miraclously not hurting anybody, but splitting the bombs open which means that the plutonium, which is about the deadliest substance that we can imagine, all came out. the bomb split open, and the plutonium just came out, little black cloud. miraclously, normally, when you're at the seaside, the wind blows off the sea, but for some strange reason, that day, the wind was blowing off the land. most of the plutonium would blow out into the mediterranean, not necessarily a great thing either, but it was better than landing on the poor people in the town. ..
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